What is California Famous for?

California is possibly the most famous state in the Union or at least one of the most talked-about and discussed. Silicon Valley and Holywood are probably the two main things California is famous for, but there are plenty of others.

California is the 3rd biggest (behind Alaska and Texas) and the most populous state in the USA, with almost 40 million people. Located on the west coast, it borders Oregon to the North, Nevada and Arizona to the East, and Mexico to the South. California is also one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, with plenty of famous landmarks and tourist attractions.

But, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore what is California famous for?

15 Things California is famous for


Hollywood and the whole film industry in the US are one of the most famous things in California. This enormous industry was historically located in the Hollywood district, and its name became synonymous with the industry in the US. The district had a huge role in later influencing the US culture and the rest of the world.

Hollywood is considered to be the oldest film industry, being the place where the earliest film studios and production companies emerged. It is considered the birthplace of cinema genres like drama, action, comedy, musical, and war epic.

Hollywood, Los Angeles, and California became the home of the powerhouse that the American film industry set the standard for other national film industries. The Holywood studios produce several hundred movies per year, making the US one of the most prolific producers of films globally and a leading pioneer in motion picture engineering and technology.

Some notable media houses and studios in Hollywood and its surroundings include the Dolby Theater, MTV, Comedy Central, CBS Studios, NBC Studios, BET, and NBC. With time, some major studios moved from Holywood to nearby neighborhoods but are still considered part of the same film industry. Disney, Universal, and Warner are now located in San Fernando Valley, while Columbia has been in Westside LA since 1990.

With Hollywood’s success came another thing California is famous for, the stars.

What Is California Famous For
Hollywood sign, a famous landmark in California | photo by Yuichiro via Depositphotos

All the stars

Since almost all the movies produced in the US come from Hollywood studios, it was only natural that it attracted all the famous, beautiful, and rich people. Thus, California quickly became the place to be if you wanted to be in the entertainment business.

Naturally, California became the most star-studded state, but most celebrities do live in the city of Hollywood, but in Malibu, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood Hills. California is where it all happens in the entertainment industry, and LA is the epicenter of movie-making and TV shows.

Thus, California is well known globally for being the home of the stars and famous people. If you enjoy celebrities and show business, besides the studios and the Hall of Fame, California is also home to numerous celebrity gravesites.

Silicon Valley

As important as it is, the entertainment industry is not even the most significant industry in California anymore. In only a few decades, Silicon Valley became one of the main forces in the Californian and American economies.

Named after the primary material in microprocessors, Silicon Valley is home to most of the main technology, software, and internet companies. Silicon Valley is the southernmost area of the San Francisco Bay Area, between San Jose and Palo Alto. However, as there are no official borders, it is one of the wealthiest regions in the world and, consequently, one of the hottest real estate markets.

Some world-famous companies located in silicon valley include Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Tesla, and a few others. So, it’s probably that you are reading this article on a phone or PC from a company in the area or at least using apps and programs from those companies.

Silicon Valley companies have made their way into our lives and redefined technology and our relationship with it. It also became the synonym for a new innovative entrepreneurial spirit and lifestyle mindset.

Silicon Valley California USA DP What is California Famous for?
Apple Park in Silicon Valley | photo by spvvk via Depositphotos

Amazing beaches

The beaches in California are legendary. With a long coast with golden sand beaches, the beaches in California are stunning. Some are very famous, like La Jolla, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and Malibu, but many others are lesser-known, yet they also deserve a visit.

Californian beaches are amazing for sunbathing, surfing, and people-watching. Unfortunately, they aren’t so great for swimming, as the water is quite cold, rarely going above 20ºC, and the waves can be quite big.

Famous things about California
California is famous for its fantastic beaches | photo by logoboom via Depositphotos

Surfing culture

When you have stunning beaches with nice waves, it’s only natural that the love for surfing appears and a surfing culture develops. California’s coastline offers ideal waves for every sort of surfer, from beginners to pros.

Surfing was introduced in California by Hawaiian students in the 1880s, and in the 1900s, it was already developing the famous Californian surf culture. But only in the 50s and 60s did it truly explodes into the popular sport and way of life it is now.

Movies, music, and Tv shows created its allure and helped the sport get even more popular with a thriving permanent scene, producing new surfing styles, its own music, and jargon. Surf has become so important that it has even been officially voted California’s official sport, and September 20 is now California Surfing Day.

Giant trees

One other thing California is famous for is its giant trees, the California Redwoods. In fact, there are two distinct species of California Redwoods, the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Fun fact: They are both considered the California state tree, as the legislator only mentioned California Redwoods, not identifying the species.

These trees used to be common in the northern hemisphere, but they are now confined to the Pacific coast (in California, Oregon, and Washington), and most of its groves are located inside national and state parks. They are considered the tallest and the largest trees in the world and are dubbed nature’s skyscrapers.

The Giant Sequoias can live up to 3000 years, though records of the oldest reach 3500 years old. They can grow up to 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter and 250 feet (76m) tall. The largest tree in the world is a giant redwood named General Sherman, with 275 feet (84 m) tall, a 102-foot (31 m) circumference, and weighs an incredible 2.7 million lbs. (1.2 million kilograms).

The Coast redwoods live up to 2000 years and reach more than 350 feet (107 m) in height. The tallest tree in the world is a Redwood named Hyperion, with 379.7 feet (115.7 m). Both trees are located in California. Hyperion is in Redwoods national park, while General Sherman is in Sequoia national park.

Most famous thing about California
Giant Sequoias in the Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

California has a huge variety of national and state parks. Among those, Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada is probably the most popular one. It holds some of the most famous landmarks in California and natural wonders in the US, like El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

Created in 1890, Yosemite has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1984. More than 3 million people visit this park to explore its deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, vast wilderness area, and much more.

Yosemite Valley attracts most of the park’s visitors, but the park is enormous, with 3 081 km², so there are many points of interest outside the main valley.

Cool California famous things
Yosemite Falls in Yosemite – Things California Is Famous For

Death Valley

The Death Valley in the Mojave Desert is another striking location in California, but it couldn’t be more different. It is similarly famous but for completely different reasons. As the name hints, the Death Valley is extremely hot and dry. In fact, it’s famous for being North America’s driest and hottest place, with two inches of annual rainfall and a record high of 134ºF (56ºC).

If this wasn’t enough, it is also the lowest place on the continent, with 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level in Badwater Basin. It’s nowhere near the dead sea in Israel and Jordan, but it’s still very impressive. Curiously, Badwater is only 84.6 miles (136.2 km) east-southeast of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.

Interesting famous things in California
Death Valley is one of the most famous landmarks in California

Wine country region

The wine country region in California is famous worldwide for being a premier wine-producing region. Located in the northern Bay Area, the wine country region is usually considered the combined counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Solano. This region is famed not only for its famed wineries but also for its cuisine, Michelin-star restaurants, luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and culture.

Since the early 19th century, wine-making has been practiced since the Spanish missionaries established the first vineyards in 1812. Since then, the wine country has steadily grown, but in 1975 there were only 25 Napa Valley wineries. From 1975 it really exploded, and now there are over 800 wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Today California is a huge wine producer globally, accounting for almost 90% of the total wine produced in the US, and if it was a country on its own, it would be the 4th largest producer in the world.

What is California famous for? Vineyards in the Napa Valley
What is California famous for? Vineyards in the Napa Valley | photo via Get your guide

Famous landmarks

We have talked about some of the most famous landmarks in California, but the golden state has a huge array of natural and human-made landmarks. Being the center of the media and entertainment business surely helps make them globally known, but there are some impressive landmarks.

Besides the already mentioned Badwater basin in Death Valley and Yosemite Falls in Yosemite national park, we must highlight Alcatraz Island and the golden gate bridge in San Francisco, the Getty Museum Hollywood sign in LA, and many others.

To learn more about the most famous landmarks in California, click here.

top famous things about California
Famous California landmarks – Alcatraz Island in San Francisco

Progressive Politics

California is widely known for being one of the most progressive states and one of the main counterculture states. In Presidential elections, it’s been a Democratic party stronghold since 1992. Still, more importantly, the state is usually at the forefront of topics like immigration, racial and gender equality, LGBT rights, cannabis legalization, etc.

Though we should mention that in terms of cannabis, it was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, only much later (2018) legalized recreational use. Washington State and Colorado were the pioneers in this aspect.

Looking at this historically, we notice that California was also where the hippie culture was most relevant. It was where the sexual revolution originated and where the famous “make love, not war” protests were more relevant.

Spanish & Mexican heritage

Within the USA and even globally, California is known for its vast Spanish and Mexican heritage. The Hispanic presence in California started when Portuguese explorer Cabrillo sailed to San Diego in 1542 under the Spanish flag.

California only became a state in 1850, which means there was a long Spanish and Mexican rule in California. This created a long heritage that can still be seen and felt today. The architecture, toponyms, political history, and racial composition clearly show a unique heritage.

Even today, about 40% of California’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and almost 30% speak Spanish.

Famous things about California
Cabrillo Statue in San Diego – what is California known for

Cars and traffic

Historically, California, specifically Los Angeles, is a car town/state. As there’s a lot of space, the cities have expanded in every direction, and roads and highways developed too. Naturally, with time the crazy traffic jams on huge highways became part of the state’s main cities day by day and one of the things California is famous for.

As CNN puts it: “Los Angeles is probably as famous for its traffic congestion as it is for the iconic Hollywood Sign.” Sometimes it is even considered one of the worst in the world. We would suggest that’s a stretch, but it is one of America’s worst.

The Bear Flag

The Californian flag, or the Bear Flag, is the current official flag of California. This iconic flag was inspired by a flag that originated in a revolt in 1846 when California was still part of Mexico. The revolt eventually failed, but the idea of a bear in the Californian flag persisted.

According to the California Military Department, the California Grizzly symbolizes excellent strength, while the star on the flag represents freedom. Unfortunately, the California grizzly bear featured on the flag is now extinct.

Adopted in 1911, the California flag, like those of Hawaii and Texas, is unusual because it features a design used by a formerly independent country.

The many nicknames

What is California known for? Oh, so many names… California is the land of milk and honey, the golden state, the golden west, the el dorado state, the sunshine state, the beach state, and the grape state. There are probably a few more names, but these are some of the most famous.

Some of these nicknames are obvious references to the gold discovery in California and the subsequent gold rush. Such nicknames are the golden state, the golden west, and the el dorado state.

Others are an allusion to other things California is famous for. Things that we mentioned already in this post. The beach state because of the huge coast boasting some amazing beaches, the grape state because of the wine country, and the sunshine state due to the many hours of sun. Interestingly, Florida is also famous for being the sunshine state.

Finally, the land of milk and honey refers to the bible, where the expression “milk and honey” indicates abundant fertility. For this reason, the bible usually mentions Israel as the land of milk and honey.

California gained this nickname after discovering gold and the opportunities it provided for all kinds of people. Nevertheless, California is also a land of abundant fertility with huge production of some agricultural goods.

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Stunning view of Big Sur, one of California’s most famous things

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